Medieval Theology

  • Created by: Tamika
  • Created on: 03-01-18 11:29

Why Medieval Theology?

  • This is 1000 years of intellectual history from the death of Augustine to the beginning of the Reformation
  • It is radically theocentric and Trinitatrian
  • Medieval Theology is characterised by a theocentric thrust towards the transcendent, which introduces an element of gratuity into Medieval Theology
  • All created things have to be seen in reference to God - created things as false Gods will either enslave or bore us
  • Only when we relate to God can we relate to created things - you can only have the benefits of a relationship when you are not targeting said benefits
  • Medieval Theology operates with a richer notion of human understanding: not just in terms of discursive reasoning or ratio but also in term of intellectus
  • Human rationalitry is always fiduciary - it always operates with certain assumptions or presuppositions
  • You cannot prove anything with logic without assuming some things in good faith such as the principle of noncontradiction
  • Medieval Theology made a distinction between intellect and reason
  • Medieval Theology has a richer understanding of ways of reading the Scriptures: literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical (things in the end) 
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St. Augustine - Basics

  • Philosophy is a praeparatio evangelicae
  • He applies the idea of Plato's forms to the Christian Word
  • God bestows his grace upon some and not others, and we cannot give any reason for it
  • Think of God in terms of love - it if is true love, it is freely given

Freedom and Morality

  • Freedom is in terms of committing oneself to something that you really find worthwhile

Salvation through Christ

  • Christ is the sacrament of our salvation

Theology of the Trinity

  • The way God reveals himself in the history of salvation discloses somewhat what God is like in himself
  • The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque) - by way of Love
  • The soul is an image of the Trinity: knowing and loving God
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St Augustine - Theory of Knowledge and Creation/Ti

Theory of Knowledge

  • Error arises in man's judgements only when appearance is taken as reality
  • The truth of mathematical judgements (2+2=4) is immune from doubt
  • Cognitions of eternal truths and standards are acts beyond the natural capacity of man's intellect since this faculty is mutable and temporal
    • an illumination from a source that is itself eternal, necessary, and unchanging
      • namely, God

Creation from Nothing

  • This opposed the Neoplatonic notion of a world emanting from God through necessity
  • This also rejects the Greek view of world formation, which is based upon the model of an artist making a finished product from materials at hand

Time as Extension

  • The dependence of creation on God is stressed in his treatment of time
  • The past is what was and is not; the future is what will be and is not; and the present is indivisible and extensionless
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St. Augustine - Eternal Soul and the Philosophy of

Eternal Soul

  • Augustine's view of the soul is throughly Platonic
  • Although the soul is something that came to be, it cannot cease to be
    • The soul is what it is because it sharws in principal, life, which does not admit of a contrary.

Philosophy of History

  • In The City of God, he moves from the Christian thinking about the historical significance of the Roman Empire
  • Rome differs from the Church both as a reality and as an ideal
    • as a reality, Rome is one empire among others, and the fate of the Church need not be bound with it
    • As an ideal, Rome is the earthly city opposed to the ideal of the heavenly city
  • The character of a society is determined by the choices of the individuals who make it up
  • If the choice is of self-love rather than love of God, then one has the earthly city; if the love is fo God rather than self, then one has the heavenly city
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Theology of the Trinity


  • the economic trinity is the same as the immanent trinity
    • the way in which different parts of the trinity engage throughout history reveals something about the way in which God is within himself

Psychological analogy

  • there is an analogy drawn between our own understanding of the Trinity and the way the human mind operates
    • the Son springs from the mind of God - this is not a conscious action as such
    • The conscious intellectual form of God is the Holy Spirit
  • We imitate God by knowing and loving God
  • Augustine draws an analogy between lover, beloved, and loved
    • they are all the same thing but we interact with them in slightly different ways and give them different names


  • "God is Good" refers to all 3 parts but only the Son can be called the Word
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John Scotus Eriugena

  • argued that temporal categories do not apply to God so he cannot condemn some to hell

The divisions of nature

  • that which creates and is not created
    • God as the origin of all things
  • that which is created and creates
    • Platonic forms as the causes of all things
  • that which is created and does not create
    • the world as we know it
    • angels - humans - animals - plants - sheer matter
  • that which is not created and does not create
    • god as the end of all things
  • everything that is created is utterly dependant upon God so we cannot think of the world in separation from God
  • God is such a mystery that he cannot understand himself and only through creating the world, as a reflection of himself, can he begin to understand
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  • Theology is faith seeking understanding
  • God is that which nothing greater can be thought
  • As all of humanity is subject to sin, humankind could not redeem itself but rather needs God
  • God is unchangeable so salvation is pro nobis (it changes us, not God)
  • God out of mercy bestows His Son so as to restore the relationship between God and humanity
  • Justice requires that evil does not previl and is being penalized
  • Christ, through his obedience and love, renders "punishment" unnecessary
  • For Anselm, satisfaction (which should be understood in terms of penance) rules out punishment
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Peter Abelard

  • regarding ethics, only the intention matter; our actual deeds are morally neutral
  • he comments on Romans
    • he thinks that it is strange that a God would be pleased to have innocent blood especially that of His son
  • Regarding John 15:13
    • our reconciliation with Christ is thaat through his unique grace and the assumed nature, he bound humanity closer to God
  • Harmatiology = sin/flaw
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Bernard of Clairvaux

Sermons on the Song of Songs

  • There are 4 degrees of love:
    • we love ourselves for our sakes (natural self-love)
    • we love God for our own sakes (for our benefit)
    • we love God for God's sake (gratuitous and freely given)
    • we love ourselves for God's sake (utter self-lessness)
  • we need to live and love for God's sake so that we do not lead lives of dissatisfaction

Destruction of Sin

  • Salvation is a mystery beyond comprehension
  • "We cannot probe the divine will but we can experience the effects"
  • God didn't demand the blood of his son, rather, he accepted it when it was offered
  • criticises Abelard for "attributing the whole of salvation to our commitment...not in the power of the corss, or of His blood, but through our own improvement of life."
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Hugo of St. Victor

  • He rejects the notion of knowledge for its own sake
    • knowledge has to serve a purpose of trying to get someone on the road to God and flourishing human life
  • Talks about the sacraments
    • baptism = sacrament
    • cleansing water = similitude
    • Christ = the institution
    • Spiritual cleansing through Christ = sanctification
  • Faith is somewhere between opinion and certain knowledge. Opinion is tinted by doubt. Certain knowledge can be verified.
  • Triangular understanding of love
    • our love for our neighbour is indirect - it is only via God
    • this allows us to love our enemies
    • We should love ourselves because God loves us
      • The good of your soul is God so if you turn your backs on the good of your soul, then you love the other more than you love God
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Richard of St. Victor

  • proposes a social model of the Trinity
  • God is love and love entails a movement towards each other
  • Love between 2 people can be enclosed and self-destructive so a 3rd element is needed
  • The Father = love freely given
  • The Son = love freely given and received
  • The Holy Spirit = love freely received
  • When the Holy Spirit interacts with the world, this is an extension of the bestowal of love in the Trinity itself
  • Reason and nature --- creation has order so it only makes sense that God, a necessary being, has order too
  • The Mode of Reasoning --- We only see God in His absence in nature
    • when we look at creation, we can infer things about the nature of God
  • Cause and Effect --- it is necessary for every being to follow its origin
    • a ray of the sun proceeds from the sun and draws its origins from the sun, and yet the ray is coeval with the sun
      • This can be applied to the Son -- Begotten not made
  • 4 Persons in Divine Nature --- There cannot be 4 parts as the perfection of charity is satisfied in 3
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Peter Lombard

  • distinguished between things and signs
  • Augustine had argued that God should be enjoyed and other things should be used
    • Peter erases the ambiguity by saying that humans are to be used
  • The humanity of Christ is there to be used in order to come to the enjoyment of God
    • Through the humanity of Christ we can move towards divinity

The Trinity

  • He believed that we are in the image of the Trinity because our three mental faculties (the mind, intellect, and will) mirror the three divine persons
  • When he talks of the image of God, he is talking about what the meaning of life is for humans

Eternal processions and historical missions

  • Peter accepts that the historical missions reveal the eternal generation of the Word
  • Argues that the Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and Son by which they love themselves and us, but also the love which we love God
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Thomas Aquinas Background

  • his theology is a synthesis of Christian and Greek thought -- Neo-Platonic and Aristotle
  • wanted to salvage Aristotle for Christians so wrote commentaries on him
  • Aristotle didn't believe in the individual immortality of the soul
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Aquinas - Sacra Doctrina

  • he asks whether we need theology if we have philosophy and natural sciences
  • God is the goal of human life and philosophy doesn't suffice for salvation
  • everything has a telos and an inclination to perfect itself -- this telos is god
  • there are 2 kinds of sciences: core foundations and those which borrow from others
    • theology borrows from articles of faith
  • is theology wisdom?
    • difference between the gift from the holy spirit and that attained from knowledge
  • knowing that something is bad instinctively
  • 4 senses of Scripture
    • literal
    • allegorical
    • anagogical
    • moral
  • equivocation --> words acquire an entirely different meaning
    • strawberry jam vs traffic jam
    • when we apply words like goodness and justice to God, we cannot do this as we will not know what we are talking about
  • univocal --> terms retain the same meaning this lowers God to human standards
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Aquinas - Theology of the Trinity

  • Father - Son = generation
  • Father + Son - Holy Spirit = procession
  • The Holy Spirit procession is a spiration which can be active or passive
    • active from the filoque
    • passive to the filoque
  • the persons are identical to the relations
  • can only define the person from their affiliation to one another
  • before God created the world, He already had the world in His mind
    • creation is an extension of the generation of the Word by the Father
  • when Christians receive sacraments, they experience the extension of the Gift
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Aquinas - Charity

  • Peter Lombard argued that charity is the same as the Holy Spirit
    • Aquinas says that this takes away the integrity of the human
  • we can close the master-slave gap by the Incarnation
    • God became one of us
  • God is the middle man by which one can engage with and love another created thing without engaging in idolatry
  • Christian love should be agape but this causes the object of your love to disappear; they become unimportant
  • we have our own needs so we are going to love those closer to us more so that there is a combination of agape and eros.
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